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About the World Flora Online project

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Who we are

There are an estimated 400,000 species of vascular plants on Earth, with some 10 per cent more yet to be discovered. These plants, both known and unknown, may hold answers to many of the world’s health, social, environmental and economic problems. A full inventory of plant life is vital if many threatened species are to be protected and if their full potential is to be realised before many of these species, and the possibilities they offer, become extinct.

In 2010, the updated Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity included as its first target (Target 1) the need for ‘An online flora of all known plants.’ With this background in mind, in January 2012 in St Louis, Missouri, U.S.A., representatives from four institutions: the Missouri Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (all members of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation, GPPC) took the initiative to meet and discuss how to achieve GSPC Target 1 by 2020. The meeting resulted in a proposed outline of the scope and content of a World Flora Online (WFO), as well as a decision to form an international consortium of institutions and organisations to collaborate on providing that content.

The WFO project was subsequently launched in India, at an event held during the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2012 where the COP also adopted a decision welcoming the WFO initiative. In January 2013 a Memorandum of Understanding on the WFO was opened for signature. Up to the end of March 2023, 51 institutions and organisations had signed the MOU.

The WFO is an open-access, Web-based compendium of the world’s plant species. It is a collaborative, international project, building upon existing knowledge and published Floras, checklists and revisions but will also require the collection and generation of new information on poorly know plant groups and plants in unexplored regions.

The project represents a major step forward in developing a consolidated global information service on the world’s flora.


The development of the WFO project has been an exemplary global botanical community voluntary effort. Unlike many major international projects, this has not been supported by any significant independent funding provided for the project. Nevertheless, individual members of the WFO Consortium, now numbering more than 51 institutions and organizations, have contributed substantial in-kind and financial resources to support the project.

The WFO acknowledges the individual commitments and support of each one of the members of the WFO Consortium, listed on the Consortium Members page. The support given by members in hosting meetings of the WFO Council is also acknowledged. Reports of each Council meeting are provided in the Documents page.

The WFO also acknowledges the generous support provided by numerous individuals and organisations that have given their data freely for inclusion in the WFO. The WFO Consortium continues to make sustained and sincere efforts to acknowledge appropriately each individual contribution made by authors of descriptions, taxonomic decisions, etc., which are provided through the sources of information and links for individual data entries in the WFO Public Portal. Acknowledgement of authorships of individual sections in major taxonomic works included in the WFO can be found in the original source work and may not always be found in the WFO

The eMonocot database application underlying the WFO was provided by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and subsequently modified by Missouri Botanical Garden. The WFO Portal and About Pages were remodelled in 2021, along with the development of the new WFO Plant List, with the design and implementation undertaken by Nye Hughes Studio in collaboration with Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Missouri Botanical Garden.

Individual members of the Consortium wish to acknowledge the support that they have received for their individual actions that contribute to the collective achievement of the WFO. The acknowledgements to external donors of WFO-related work are listed below, with information provided by individual WFO members.

Conservatoire et Jardin Botanique de la ville de Genève, Switzerland

  • Franklinia Foundation - development of Botalista software for WFO data ingestion.
  • City of Geneva – development of Botalista software for WFO data ingestion.

Instituto de Pesquisas Jardim Botânico do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Government of Brazil – support for the preparation of the Flora of Brazil (REFLORA) data sets, and management of the WFO mailservers

Missouri Botanical Garden, St Louis, USA

  • The Monsanto Company and subsequently, Bayer Crop Science – major financial support for WFO-related staff salaries, taxonomic and bioinformatics work.
  • National Science Foundation – support for taxonomic projects generating content for WFO.
  • Franklinia Foundation – support for taxonomic and conservation projects related to trees generating content for WFO.

New York Botanical Garden, USA

  • Google – technical support and provision of data storage sponsorship.
  • The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation - digitization of plant descriptions for inclusion in the WFO.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

  • Government of Scotland – support for WFO-related staff salaries, and web development for the WFO Portal, About Pages, and WFO Plant List.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK

  • Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Kew’s UK Government sponsor.
  • Natural Environment Research Council for initial funding for Kew’s content platform.
  • Michel and Hélène David-Weill for supporting the development of Plants of the World On-line and mobilising content from Kew’s African Floras.